While tenant protections will lift when Washington’s eviction moratorium expires on June 30, assistance programs for tenants and landlords remain available.

The state’s moratorium was implemented in March 2020 because of the pandemic and has been extended several times.

When the moratorium ends, tenants are obligated to pay rent and debt for the months they have not paid. In addition, they must comply with all the clauses of their lease. Many could face evictions at the end of this month, said Jessica Martinez, bilingual coordinator for the Justice Housing Project of Volunteer Attorney Services in Yakima County.

“Our organization is helping to prevent these cases, but people need to act as soon as possible to help keep tenants from violating current law,” she said.

“It is important that people call our attorneys to help them before the moratorium expires, or if they are facing eviction or are in the process of losing housing due to nonpayment, or if they have been notified that they are going to increase rents and must pay off everything they owe by the end of this month without giving them extensions,” she added.

The Justice Housing Project offers free legal representation.

Tenant, landlord resources

Yakima County has a rental assistance program and a landlord funding program funded by the state Department of Commerce.

“Yakima County secured $28 million to put toward the rental assistance program in our communities. These funds will help stabilize households that have had difficulty paying rents during the pandemic, and also directly benefit renters because they will receive back payments on their properties,” said Rebeca Barrios, rental assistance program coordinator for COVID at the Northwest Communities Education Center/KDNA.

Barrios said funds to pay rent are available until the end of December 2021, and although each application is different, people could qualify for up to one year of delayed rent and payment checks will come out directly under the tenant’s name.

“Eligible tenants may receive assistance with up to 12 months of rent payments,” Barrios said. “Anyone who is low-income according to the federal poverty guidelines can apply, and even those who have already received assistance from other programs can apply.”

The Northwest Communities Educational Center/KDNA Radio is one of five organizations that the Yakima County Department of Health and Human Services approved to distribute the funds. The other organizations are Yakima Neighborhood Health Services, Catholic Charities, OIC of Washington and Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic Northwest Community Action Center.

Barrios said people who have already received help can reapply for resources from the program, since the program covers an entire year of overdue rents. “If a person received a payment for three months, the aid can be extended to cover up to nine more months, for a total of 12 months.”

The amount depends on the rental cost and area where people live.

She said applicants are chosen by a lottery system run by the county. “This allows us to pool the applications we receive from all participating organizations and thus avoid duplication,” she said.

Tenant support

Landlords also might qualify for help.

“Landlords who have less than 10 properties can obtain 80% of the total rental debt. They can get the resources through the landlord association,” Martinez said.

“We will help tenants who are in trouble and we can guide landlords to get resources. We ask them to seek our services as soon as possible, because when the moratorium expires, the number of evictions could increase 300%.

“If they live outside the Valley, we refer them to helplines in their communities. We are trying to help as many people as possible. Please call us,” she said.